Monday, January 20, 2014

50 Most Influential K-pop Artists: 11. Lee Hyori

[Series Index]

11.  Lee Hyori [이효리]

Years of Activity: 1998-present (1998-2002 as a member of Fin.K.L.; 2003-present as solo)

Discography (Fin.K.L.):
Fine Killing Liberty (1998)
White (1999)
Now (2001)
영원 [Eternity] (2002)

Discography (solo):
Stylish (2003)
Dark Angel (2006)
It's Hyorish (2008)
H-Logic (2010)
Monochrome (2013)

Representative Song:  Miss Korea from Monochrome



Miss Korea

유리거울 속 저 예쁜 아가씨
The pretty girl inside the glass mirror
무슨 일 있나요 지쳐 보여요
What's the matter, you seem tired
많은 이름에 힘이 드나요
Do the many names drain you
불안한 미래에 자신 없나요
Does the uncertain future hurt your confidence
자고나면 사라지는 그깟 봄 신기루에
That spring mirage that disappears after night
매달려 더 이상 울고 싶진 않아
I no longer want to hang onto that and cry

Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea
세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
The best girl in the world
누구나 한 번에 반할 일이야
Everyone just takes one look to fall for me
Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea

Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea
세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
The best girl in the world
누구나 알면은 놀랄 일이야
Everyone will be surprised if they found out
Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea

명품 가방이 날 빛내주나요
Does the expensive purse make me shine
예뻐지면 그만 뭐든 할까요
Should I do everything just to become pretty
자고나면 사라지는 그깟 봄 신기루에
That spring mirage that disappears after night
매달려 더 이상 울고 싶진 않아
I no longer want to hang onto that and cry

Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea
세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
The best girl in the world
누구나 한 번에 반할 일이야
Everyone just takes one look to fall for me
Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea

Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea
세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
The best girl in the world
누구나 알면은 놀랄 일이야
Everyone will be surprised if they found out
Because I'm a Miss Korea
Because I'm a Miss Korea

사람들의 시선 그리 중요한가요
Does the way people look matter so much
망쳐가는 것들 내 잘못 같나요
Does it feel like it's your fault that everything goes wrong
그렇지 않아요. 이리 와 봐요 다 괜찮아요.
That's not true. Come over here. Everything is ok.
넌 Miss Korea
You are Miss Korea.


Translation notes:  Although the lyrics are simple, it is oddly difficult to translate it elegantly.

In 15 words or less:  Pioneer of K-pop womanhood

Maybe she should be ranked higher because...  Has there been any other woman in K-pop who single-handedly changed the conversation?

Maybe she should be ranked lower because...  Did she achieve anything musically?

Why is this artist important?
Women pop artists always face a steeper road to success in pop culture, because they have another aspect about themselves that they may package and sell: their sexuality. Some female artists, feeling that their sexuality (or at least, the external version of it) gets in the way, quietly present their music and hope that their talent will win out. Other female artists embrace this seeming advantage, package their sexuality and market it along with their other talents. And still other female artists sublimate their sexuality and turn the prevailing convention on its head. The sexuality that latter group of artists--such as Madonna or Lady Gaga--displays is rarely crass or vulgar. Instead, it is highly stylized to a degree that is mildly confusing. They make the viewers ask themselves: is this sexy? Then the inevitable answer: it must be, if they claim it with such confidence!

Lee Hyori is perhaps the first K-pop act that made K-pop fans ask those questions to themselves. Lee's remarkable career came in two stages: first, she established the prevailing standard in K-pop, and second, she destroyed it. Lee Hyori's initial group, Fin.K.L. (pronounced "finkle") still serves as the model girl group for K-pop's idol groups to this day. Fin.K.L. is arguably the most successful girl groups in K-pop history. Not even Girls' Generation, that young upstart that I previously described as "the most perfect business plan," can approach the heights that Fin.K.L. reached. Fin K.L. still holds the record for second-best in total album sales among girl groups. Though S.E.S. outsold Fin.K.L. (3.6 million to 2.8 million), no one has heard of S.E.S. once the main group disbanded. Not so with Fin.K.L. Even setting aside Lee, former members of Fin.K.L. have had solid-to-excellent solo careers as actresses for television and live musicals. Fin.K.L. also had a deeper and wide fan base, likely creating the first generation of "uncle fans," i.e. the group of older men who follow idol girl groups.

Then came Lee's solo career, which was as glorious as any solo career in K-pop history. If measured by utter ubiquity of presence--in TV shows, in advertisements, in people's conversations--one can make a solid case that Lee Hyori was the greatest K-pop act ever. She single-handedly pushed Korea's female standard of beauty from pale, wafery and demure to tanned, fit and active. Her utter confidence in herself radiated through her music, dance and demeanor, causing K-pop watchers to re-evaluate their deep-seated aesthetics that they never previously had to evaluate.

Miss Korea is the hallmark of such confidence. Sure, knock Lee Hyori for her supposed lack of compositional talents, especially with the massive plagiarism scandal of her disastrous fourth solo album. But you do so at your own peril: like Lee sings in her song, it only takes one look for everyone to fall for her.

Interesting trivia:  Technically, Fin.K.L. never disbanded, which makes them the oldest continuously surviving K-pop girl idol band. (However, Fin.K.L.'s last album was in 2005.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

8 comments:

  1. I was waiting for this one. Lee Hyori is the perfect balance of sassy, classy, and sexy - something very few female pop artists of any nationality are able to maintain for as long as she has.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am surprised to see Lee Hyo Ri on the list. She is influential but musically she's weak. I was expecting someone with at least good talent to be on 11th. She is better known for her image..now I'm more curious on top 10.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great article, I totally agree with that she set such a standard for female kpop stars and she's so respectable because of her personality and confidence. Talent-wise, she was never very good at anything, but she still managed to become such an influential figure. Says a lot about her.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sweet girl, but sometimes looks a little lost on stage. A little too cheerleader and plastic.
    BoA, Eugene. And no Kpop girl band has ever been bigger than GG. Heh.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 유리거울 속 저 예쁜 아가씨
    Pretty girl over there inside the mirror.
    무슨 일 있나요 지쳐 보여요
    What's the matter, you look so tired.
    많은 이름에 힘이 드나요
    Are you tired of all the names?
    불안한 미래에 자신 없나요
    Got no confidence in the future?
    자고나면 사라지는 그깟 봄 신기루에
    Will you wake up to find that the illusion of spring is gone?
    매달려 더 이상 울고 싶진 않아
    Don't want to cling to it, cling on to it and cry.

    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
    The girl with everything.
    누구나 한 번에 반할 일이야
    Just one look, and everyone falls in love with me.
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea

    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
    The number one girl in the world,
    누구나 알면은 놀랄 일이야
    Everyone would be surprised if they only knew
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea

    명품 가방이 날 빛내주나요
    Does this bag make you glitter?
    예뻐지면 그만 뭐든 할까요
    You'll do anything to be pretty?
    자고나면 사라지는 그깟 봄 신기루에
    Will you wake up to find that spring is over?
    매달려 더 이상 울고 싶진 않아
    Don't want to try to hang on to it and cry any more,

    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
    The best girl in the world
    누구나 한 번에 반할 일이야
    Only one look and everyone falls for me
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea

    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    세상에서 제일가는 girl이야
    The girl with everything
    누구나 알면은 놀랄 일이야
    Everyone would be surprised if they only knew
    Because I'm a Miss Korea
    Because I'm a Miss Korea

    사람들의 시선 그리 중요한가요
    Does the way people see you matter so much?
    망쳐가는 것들 내 잘못 같나요
    Does it feel like everything's your fault?
    그렇지 않아요. 이리 와 봐요 다 괜찮아요.
    It's not your fault. Come here. Everything's going to be alright.
    넌 Miss Korea
    You're Miss Korea.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I always liked that she had the self-confidence to go on those shows where a bunch of 'talents' go out and do silly things - and she would do it with little or no makeup.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Does anyone else think her representative song is 10 Minutes? Isn't it her most popular song? She's said in interview before that she doesn't think she'll ever have or even try to have another song that'll top 10 Minutes in popularity.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The subject of Female Pop Artist has been covered intensively by the world press over the past decade. Many an afternoon has been enjoyed by a family, bonding over the discussion of Female Pop Artist. Until recently considered taboo amongst polite society, there are just not enough blues songs written about Female Pop Artist.

    ReplyDelete

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